Summary: The proteasome system is a central component of a cascade of proteolytic processing steps required to generate antigenic peptides presented at the cell surface to cytotoxic T lymphocytes by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. The nascent protein pool or DRiPs (defective ribosomal products) appear to represent an important source for MHC class I epitopes. Owing to the destructive activities of aminopeptidases in the cytosol, at most 1% of the peptides generated by the ubiquitin–proteasome system seems to be made available to the immune system. Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) helps to override these limitations by the formation of immunoproteasomes, the activator complex PA28, and the induction of several aminopeptidases. Both immunoproteasomes and PA28 use cleavage sites already used by constitutive proteasomes but with altered and in some cases dramatically enhanced frequency. Therefore, two proteolytic cascades appear to have evolved to provide MHC class I epitopes. The ‘constitutive proteolytic cascade’ is designed to efficiently degrade proteins to single amino acid residues, allowing only a small percentage of peptides to be presented at the cell surface. In contrast, the IFN-γ-controlled proteolytic cascade generates larger amounts of appropriate antigenic peptides, assuring more peptides to overcome the proteolytic restrictions of the constitutive system, thereby enhancing MHC class I antigen presentation.